If you’re running to lose weight, longer runs aren’t always better

Some things that might make you want to run: See photos from the race that your friend posted on IG. Watch exciting videos Olympic Athletics Finals on YouTube. The fact that Lululemon makes (super cute) running shoes. Or, perhaps, a weight loss objective.

If the latter in particular caught your eye, you’ve come to the right place. Race it’s a form of movement that you can use to help you lose weight. It’s cardiovascular exercise, so it gets your heart pumping and burns calories, she says Lauren Wenz, PT, DPT, CSCS, an RRCA and USATF certified running coach based in Pittsburgh. (You can learn more about estimating your calorie deficit for weight loss HereOn purpose.)

But there are a few things to know before you strap in and hit the pavement. Below, you’ll find six running tips for weight loss, all according to Wentz. Just remember: As with any new exercise regimen, be sure to consult a trusted healthcare professional before starting.

Meet the expert: Lauren WenzPT, DPT, CSCS, is an RRCA and USATF certified running coach based in Pittsburgh.

6 tips for running to lose weight

1. Do not automatically set long distances.

Yes, Training and Completion a marathon it can be a totally rewarding experience. But if your goal is to lose weight, it might not be your *best* option, says Wentz. When you run for more than three hours (or, over 16 miles), your body breaks down muscles, she explains.

Here’s why it’s important: If you’re losing muscle, you have a lower value basal metabolic rate, she says. ICYMI, your BMR is the amount of calories you burn performing basic vital functions, or, in other words, the minimum number of calories needed to maintain your current weight, WH previously reported. So, Wentz suggests prioritizing shorter runs (he thinks: an hour or less) for those with weight-loss goals.

2. Also stick to a strength training regimen.

While you may feel compelled to go out for a run or jump on the Tapis Roulant day after day, building muscle mass helps you increase your basal metabolic rate, notes Wentz. Plus, he says, if you keep breaking down muscle mass with too much cardio, you can do it [end up with] injuries because you don’t have enough strength.

Where this could be confusing is on scale. Muscle weighs more than fat, Wentz says, so if you see your weight increasing (or notice your clothes fit differently), you may feel discouraged, even though your muscle-to-fat ratio is changing.

In terms of how often you should force train instead of racing every week, Wentz’s general advice is to maintain a 50-50 split on three days each. But note that if you really love strength training, you can go for a fourth day in lieu of one of your runs.

3. Mix up your running workouts to keep your body guessing.

When you think about running, you may automatically picture long, slow runs. And Wentz recommends incorporating them into your regimen (30 to 60 minutes each). But if you are constantly by logging miles at a talking pace, she says, your body will adapt and burn fewer calories because it’s learning how to successfully complete the activity. On the flip side, varying your speed can challenge your body in different ways (she thinks: anaerobic rather than aerobically), according to Wentz.

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Your move? Try interval training for one of your runs each week. Wentz suggests heading to a trail (or using a watch that measures distance) and warming up for an easy mile-and-a-half to two miles, depending on your typical mileage, along with some dynamic stretches and glute activations.

If you’re a new runner, start with four or five 400-meter sprints with a 400-meter recovery (read: *super* slow jog) in between. Over time, you can build up to 12 to 15 sprints, he says, adding one or two every other week.

As for what constitutes a sprint? Think six, seven, or eight on a scale of one to 10, Wentz says. At 400 it sounds really, really short, she says. But when you ride that track, it feels like [like] forever. For this reason, Wentz suggests starting with a six for the first quarter of the round, then moving to a seven. For the back half, you can hit an eight.

For your recovery 400, he tells you Candies walking, but there is a greater cardiovascular benefit to continuing with an easy jog. (Tip: If you feel the urge to walk, go for a 15-second jog first to see how you really are. Once you catch your breath, you may find you can keep going.)

4. Take at least one full day of rest each week.

It’s crucial that you give your body time to repair and get stronger, according to Wentz. But she adds that you can active recovery that day, like yoga (she just cautions against choosing a yoga class with more of a workout component, like hot yoga).

Another option, Wentz says, is to take two rest days a week (keeping a minimum of two days of strength training in your schedule). If you go this route, she suggests taking one day off completely and doing low-impact cross training on the other. For example, you could swimtake a (slow) spin class, ride your bike outside or line. You can also choose an activity like pickleball. You just don’t want to go hard, says Wentz.

5. Know when not to run.

Sometimes, runners feel a little aching or tightness, Wentz says, adding that it’s normal and generally okay to run. But you Not I want to suffer from sharp pains that are five out of 10 or more, she says.

He also advises against running if you experience stomach or breathing problems, or more generally any concerns from the neck down. (Not sure if the pain or discomfort you’re experiencing constitutes a change in your exercise plans? Talk to your doctor for guidance.)

Also pay attention to the air quality. It could be risky to run outdoors once the AQI, or Air Quality Index, exceeds 150, NBC News recently reported.

6. Consider your diet.

It’s not uncommon to feel like you can eat all pizza and donuts when you start running, Wentz notes, but if weight loss is your goal, you’ll still need to be mindful of the calories you’re consuming versus burned. A 155-pound person running for 30 minutes at a 12-minute pace burns 288 calories, according to Harvard Healthso it’s easy enough to consume what you’ve burned.

If you find yourself feeling *hungry* as you start running more, Wentz has some advice: First, ask yourself if you’ve been drinking enough, because dehydration sometimes manifests itself as hunger, she says. Second, he considers the types of foods you’re eating. Things like chips and crackers have calories, obviously, but not as much nutritional value. On the other hand, fiber foods it can help you feel really full.

Also remember this: Diet culture has taught us to stop doing many things we actually need as runners to sustain that effort, Wentz says. Runners need carbohydrates for fuel, explains the trainer. That doesn’t mean you have to load up on carbs all day, he notes, but it’s important to consume them before your run to help get the job done and afterward (along with protein) to heal muscles that were torn during your run. In other words, the timing is key.

If you have questions about your unique dietary needs as you try to safely reach a weight loss goal, chat with your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

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Erin Warwood is a writer, runner, and sparkling water enthusiast living in San Francisco. She holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. In her spare time, you can find her watching Survivor, trying out new Peloton workouts, and reading Emily Giffin novels. Her ultimate goal: to become a morning person.

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